Step 3: Help yourself at home. Besides reaching into your medicine cabinet and doing your exercises, what can you do in the comfort of your own home to achieve pain relief? Stay warm, get cool and rest. Warming tissues eases arthritis pain by increasing blood flow to affected areas, which can help decrease inflammation, relax tight muscles and eliminate waste products such as lactic acid that cause stiffness and soreness. Five ways to bring on the heat:

•    Soak it in. A hot bath or dip in a Jacuzzi can bring immediate pain relief. If you have respiratory or cardiac problems that may keep you from using warm water therapy, or if you are older than 70 (as we age, our bodies do not regulate heat as well), check with your doctor before plunging in.

•    Pad the results. For pain relief in an isolated part of the body, electric heating pads are a popular choice. The downside is that more than 100,000 people burn themselves with such pads every year, often when they fall asleep or use them along with heat-inducing creams. Better options include microwaveable pads or heating pads with automatic off-switches in case you doze off.

•    Wrap it up. An increasingly popular method for pain relief is to use low-level continuous heat wraps, which can be worn on various parts of the body – including the neck, elbow, lower back, and knee – and even slept in for up to eight hours.

•    Adjust the contrast. Contrast baths – alternating soaks in hot and cold water – can decrease swelling and pain. The process is as simple as filling one sink with cold water (65 degrees Fahrenheit) and another with warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Leave your hands or feet in the warm water for five to 10 minutes then plunge them in the cold for one minute. Return to the warm for three to four minutes before dipping in the cold for another minute. Repeat this four or five times.

•    Wax on, wax off. Coating hands or feet in melted paraffin wax traps the heat right where you need it – on your sore joints. Leave wax on while it cools and hardens, then peel away. Bonus: In addition to providing heat to ease arthritis pain, the wax treatment softens skin.

     Cold therapy, also called cryotherapy, can involve cold packs, ice packs, ice massage, cold compression wraps or fluids that cool the skin as they evaporate. Cold works by decreasing blood flow to reduce swelling, slowing the transmission of pain signals through nerves and inhibiting inflammatory chemicals. For pain and swelling after exercise, during a flare or for 48 to 72 hours after an injury, ice massage can be done for seven to 10 minutes; cold packs and wraps can be used for 15 to 30 minutes.

     Balancing activity with rest periods can help diminish inflammation. Whether you take time out to relax your entire body or you rest a specific joint by wearing a brace or splint, allowing yourself to refresh mentally and physically can reduce arthritis pain and restore energy.